56. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) [Rated R]
summary from imdb.com:
Drama about a woman who assists her friend to arrange an illegal abortion in 1980’s Romania.
directed by: Cristian Mungiu
plot summary from wikipedia:
The film follows the story of Otilia Mihartescu (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabriela ‘Gabita’ Dragut (Laura Vasiliu), two university friends in an unnamed Romanian town. The film is set in 1987, one of the last years of the Ceausescu regime. When Gabita becomes pregnant, the two girls arrange a meeting with Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov) in a hotel, where he is to perform an illegal abortion (Communist Romania had a natalist policy against abortion).
At the college dorm Gabriela and Otilia go over the items they need for the day, and as Gabriela nervously sits and waits in the room, Otilia barters and buys soap, cigarettes, etc. from school friends. Afterwards, Otilia takes a bus to visit her boyfriend Adi, from whom she borrows money. Adi asks Otilia to visit his family that night, as it is his mother’s birthday, and to buy flowers on the way, to which Otilia initially declines, but she relents after Adi becomes upset.
Otilia heads to a hotel where Gabriela has booked a room, only to be informed by an unfriendly receptionist that there is no reservation under Gabriela’s last name. Otilia goes to another hotel, and after much begging and haggling is able to book a room at an expensive rate. Afterwards Otilia goes to a rendezvous point to meet with Mr. Bebe, although he had asked Gabriela that she meet him and no one else. Mr. Bebe grows angry upon hearing that Gabriela is not at the planned hotel.
Mr. Bebe discovers that Gabriela’s claim that her pregnancy was in its third month is a lie; in fact, it has been at least four months. The two women were certain that they would pay no more than 3000 lei for the abortion. However, it slowly becomes clear to the women that he expects both women to have sex with him. Otilia reluctantly has sex (and eventually Gabriela does as well) with Mr. Bebe so that he will not walk out on them. Mr. Bebe then performs the abortion by injecting a probe and water into Gabriela, and leaves Otilia instructions on how to dispose of the fetus when it comes out. Otilia is exasperated by Gabriela’s lies, yet continues to help her and care for her.
Otilia leaves Gabriela at the hotel to go to Adi’s mother’s birthday. She’s still disturbed but stays and has dinner with Adi’s mother’s friends, who are mostly doctors. They all talk about trivial things while Otilia and Adi remain silent. The phone rings in the background, but no one answers it. One of the guests then starts talking about lost values and respect to elders when Otilia accepts a cigarette offered to her in front of Adi’s parents, which prompts Adi to bring the champagne in order to get the party over with. Adi and Otilia then go to his room where Otilia tells him about Gabriela’s abortion, and they start talking about what would happen if it was Otilia who was pregnant since Adi seems to be against abortion. After fighting with Adi, Otilia calls Gabriela from Adi’s house. Gabriela does not answer, so Otilia decides to go back to the hotel.
When Otilia enters the room Gabriela is lying on the bed, and she tells Otilia that the fetus has come out and is in the bathroom. Otilia then wraps the fetus with some towels and puts everything in a bag, while Gabriela asks her to bury the fetus. Otilia then goes outside and walks around for a while, finally climbing to the top of a random building, as Mr. Bebe had suggested, and dropping the bag in a trash chute.
Otilia then goes back to the hotel and finds Gabriela eating at the restaurant. She sits and tells Gabriela that they are never going to talk about the episode ever again.
from A Way of Being Human
Speaking of pro-life movies, I’ve actually heard stories of pro-choice activists becoming pro-life after watching this movie. It doesn’t surprise me. This movie smacked me up side the head and there is at least one scene I will never forget. Yet this is not a pro-life film. It’s not pro-choice either, although it is set in 1980′s Romania under a totalitarian government where abortion is illegal. And it’s about a woman trying to help her friend have an abortion. This movie doesn’t sensationalize, nor does it put the women up on a pedestal… it just tells a story. And the story is not just about abortion. It’s also about politics, class, and friendship.
And that Country is “Fantasyland” from Mark Hemingway at NRO’s The Corner:
In Time’s 10 best movies of the year, one of the selections is Romanian abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days. While I have to concur that nearly all aspects of Ceaucesu’s regime were horrifying, I can’t help but note critic Richard Corliss has a very odd conception of what abortion is, no doubt informed by his political views:
Strap yourself in for this minimalist, splendidly acted horror film — and count your blessings that you live in a country where choosing an abortion doesn’t mean losing a life.
Tonally I like that the film is devoid of melodrama and everything is understated, even the shot of the aborted fetus. Though that shot is shocking and one of the more disturbing images I’ve seen in awhile, I think that it is warranted and powerful given the subject matter.
The Most Persuasive Anti-Abortion Argument Ever? from Dave Andrusko at National Right to Life:
…That the film packs an extraordinary wallop is undeniable. Movie blogger Jeffery Wells was wowed by what he calls a “masterpiece.” Wells matter-of-factly mentions his own involvement in two abortions, so it’s not as if he has a pro-life axe to grind.
Read what he has to say about 4 months: “This is a haunting moral tale and a psychologically tense suspense film, as well as the most persuasive anti-abortion argument in any form I’ve ever heard, seen or read.” The movie not only left Wells feeling “moved and shaken,” he writes, but “changed.” This is undoubtedly true but people will come to that conclusion for different reasons.
One obvious explanation is the sight of the bloodied, dead baby lying on the floor. I don’t know how often the results of a “termination” have ever been shown in a film, but the impact all but knocks the breath out of you.
Gabita has returned to the hotel after being emotionally blackmailed into attending a birthday party for her self-indulgent boyfriend’s mother. Otilia awakes and tells Gabita she has aborted.
The camera focuses on Gabita’s face-which has already aged years in the matter of a few hours-as she opens the door to the bathroom. Gradually the angle is expanded and we see the baby’s body, partially wrapped in a towel. It is when Otilia joins Gabita that she asks her roommate not to dispose of the baby but to “bury” the remains.
4 months is filled with the kind of details that make an already impossibly tense situation even more draining. Earlier, in a brilliant touch, a dog passes by Gabita just before she first tries to book a room.
Later the abortionist warns her not to bury the body because dogs might dig it up. In a harrowing scene, as she tries to figure out what to do with the baby, Gabita is startled by the sound of barking dogs. She jumped. I jumped.
But knowing that the “termination” caused the death of a real, live baby is only part of the answer. Without preaching-or perhaps even intending-4 months also reveals the ugliness of abortion per se, not its legality or illegality. I don’t believe it is possible to come away from the film without at least considering the possibility that an abortion not only costs a helpless victim his or her life but also extracts a considerable chunk of humanity of those who take that life.
Wells rightly observes, “A long scene in which these three sit in a hotel room and hash out the monetary, bartered and medicinal basics of what has to be done for the abortion to take place is the heart of the film, and it’s unforgettable.”
In the film’s concluding scene Otilia’s response can be read in different ways. While Gabita is away, charged with the soul-draining task of disposing of the dead baby, Otilia has left the room. Gabita returns to find her in the hotel restaurant about to be served dinner.
4 months ends as Otilia asks Gabita what she did with the baby. Gabita, who has done everything for her roommate but have the abortion, tells her they should never speak of this again.
If the genius of acting is not to appear as if you are acting, in all the hundreds of films I’ve seen, none surpasses 4 months for sheer naturalism. And with a bare minimum of dialogue, Mungiu fleshes out the characters in remarkable depth.
Otilia is small-voiced and seemingly timid, but quite capable of passive manipulation of a high order.
Gabita is fiercely loyal, even if in the service of a grotesque wrong, brave, and quick witted. The exchange she has with her oafish boyfriend at the mother’s birthday party ought to be required viewing by all adolescents.
Prof. Thomas Hibbs, writing at nationalreview.com, offers this keen insight:
“One of the chief deprivations in a totalitarian police state is imaginative and linguistic. The verbal communication in the film is always terse, often brittle, and typically narrowly pragmatic. The characters lack a vocabulary to describe their condition; indeed, they are for the most part void of longing to understand or to communicate. The silence itself, the physical revulsion in the face of an unspeakable act, has an artistic, emotional, and deeply moral impact. By giving a face to the voiceless victim of abortion, this film bespeaks the horror of an unspeakable act.”
A remarkable film. I would strongly recommend 4 months to any adult.
part of a review by Thomas S. Hibbs:
Abortion is more than mere metaphor, however. One pro-choice film critic describes 4 Months as the “most persuasive anti-abortion argument in any form I’ve ever heard, seen, or read.” In certain respects, this is a strange conclusion to reach: The filmmakers did not intend a pro-life film. Indeed, the production notes highlight the negative effects of the Romanian Communist ban on abortion in the late 1960s: Illegal abortions killed nearly half a million women. The notes go on to report on the post-Communist boom in abortions and the filmmakers proclaim the widespread popularity of abortion as a “method of contraception” in contemporary Romania.
Filmmakers have been willing to depict abortion as something ugly, even as a necessary evil in the face of tragic circumstances. Despite an increasingly explicit film culture, in which it is permissible — indeed, in certain genres, mandatory — to show every manner of torture and physical brutality, the direct portrayal of an aborted fetus is rare. The way in which this film depicts the consequences of the abortion packs a chilling, emotional wallop. At four months, three weeks, and two days, a fetus is unmistakably human — small, but human. Recognizing this fact, Gabita begs Otilia to “bury” rather than simply discard the dead baby…
part of a review by James Bowman:
As I was coming out of a screening of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, as shaken up by the experience as I imagine everyone who has seen the film must be, I accidentally fell into step behind a couple — she in her 20s or early 30s, he considerably older, both elegantly dressed — who were making their reaction to what they had seen a matter for public remark.
Actually, it was the woman who was doing most of the talking while the man, in a considerably lower voice, sounded as if he was trying to pour oil upon troubled waters. He probably was, too. She was saying that the entire Supreme Court should be made to see this movie, as this is what our country would look like if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. That was why, in case anyone wanted to know, she had at some demonstration or other been known to scream in public — she was not far off it now — as she had joined with other women to keep abortion legal, and why she would be doing it again.
As we parted ways on coming out of the building, I heard the word “Bush” more than once, and not in a nice tone, but I missed the rest of this lady’s harangue and all of the reaction to it of her softer-voiced companion. Hers, I thought, was an understandable response to what must be one of the most harrowing depictions of an abortion ever shown on film and a picture that well deserved the Palme d’Or that it won at Cannes last year. Yet it seemed odd that all she could see of it afterwards was the fact that, having taken place in Romania during the dying days of the oddly puritanical Ceausescu regime, now nearly 20 years in the past, the abortion had been an illegal one. However horrible its illegality had made it — and that’s pretty horrible — it’s hard to see how that could so completely blind someone to the horror — for such it also certainly is — of the abortion itself. Such are the powers of ideology.
To be fair, the Romanian film-maker, Cristian Mungiu, had to some extent encouraged such a reaction by stressing the predatory nature of the abortionist, who bears the grimly comical nom de guerre of Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov) and who uses in vile and degrading ways his advantage — created by the fact that they are engaged in a criminal conspiracy — over the two frightened college students, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) and Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) who employ him. Yet Mr. Mungiu, unlike so many of his pro-choice feminist fans, is at least as interested in the evils of the unnamed “procedure” as he is in those that ensue from its illegality. Naturally this makes him more difficult to classify ideologically than either side in the abortion debate would like him to be, but as the woman I overheard demonstrated, there is nothing to stop the dedicated ideologue from simply ignoring the parts of the film she doesn’t care to see.
These include, it should be said up front, an unblinking, unabashed shot of an aborted fetus. This, Mr. Mungiu was quoted in the press as saying, “makes a point — people should be aware of the consequences of their decisions.” Just so. But there is more to his film than this. It’s hard to tell about Gabita, who is weak, sly and manipulative, as willing to take advantage of her friend as Bebe is to take advantage of both of them, but for Otilia the terrible price she is willing to pay for her friend’s abortion is all part of her more general determination to do whatever is necessary to break free of what the totalitarian communist regime has made the prison of her peasant origins. On more than one occasion, she tells us that she is studying “Tech” at the university because Tech students are not sent to the country. Gabita comes from the same rural hometown as she, and her loyalty to her, for which she pays such a high price, seems to be part and parcel of her ambition to improve her own lot in life.
Mr. Mungiu has also explained that what he was trying to convey was that, “Because of the pressure of the regime, women and families were so much concerned about not being caught for making an illegal abortion that they didn’t give one minute of thought about the moral issue.” It makes sense, I guess. Which of us can be sure how we might act if we were subject to the desperation created by living under a totalitarian regime? That desperation serves in the film, by motivating the abortion, to reinforce the pro-life view of the momentousness of such an act. Or, to put it another way, I wonder what could have been the excuse of the well-dressed fan of Roe v. Wade whom I overheard for her giving not one minute’s thought to the moral issue? She does seem rather to have missed the point, doesn’t she?